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Zero Waste Cities Collaborative

In February 2017, CAG joined a collaborative of ten cities in India, Indonesia and the Phillipines that will work to reduce plastic pollution on land and in our oceans through (1) ward-level waste audits, (2) data collection on problematic plastic waste in oceans and rivers. Using data from multiple sites and some product research, our project will publicly identify these products/materials in order to catalyse much-needed innovation in product/packaging design.

Plastic waste constitutes between 60% and 80% of marine debris and is “one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems impacting our oceans and waterways,” according to the U.N. Much of this waste enters from countries in the Asia Pacific region, where rapid urbanization, growth of megacities, increased consumption, extensive coastlines and waterways, and minimal waste infrastructure cause high levels of plastic leakage into oceans. Up to 90% of seabirds today have plastic in their stomachs, and this will reach 99% by 2050 under current projections of plastic production and disposal. Unless we take action to slow and ultimately stop plastic pollution at its source, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050. The vast majority of plastic waste originates on land, and reaches the oceans because of unsustainable product design and inadequate waste management systems. It is clear that a dramatic intervention is needed, one which demonstrates transformative zero waste systems at the local level and uses data to drive sustainable redesign of production and consumption. 

We will conduct thorough waste audits at chosen impact sites to identify specific problem materials. To complement ward-level audits, we will identify what materials are most commonly littered or escape the waste stream and enter our oceans. A thorough waste audit will identify specific problem materials (for example sachets, coffee capsules, juice boxes, Styrofoam for take-out food, etc.). We will also undertake an analysis of brand data in waste audits in order to advocate for producer responsibility of waste. Currently, there is no good method or policy for handling post-consumer waste like styrofoam, tetrapaks, and non woven polypropylene. These materials break down into tiny pieces and find their way to water bodies and the ocean.  However, there is insufficient data on the quantity of products being consumed and discarded, alternative policies to reduce leakage into oceans, availability of alternative products or services, and information on consumer behavior in the market. Using this data, we will produce a report on producer responsibility options.

“Zeroing in on Waste” will reduce marine plastic pollution through high-impact zero waste projects and data analysis that analyses a mix of urban waste streams, beaches and waterways. This work is also important because of the co-benefits that zero waste systems include for public health and economic growth. It includes increased recognition for and formal integration of the informal waste workers whose critical environmental efforts have previously gone under the radar. This will include issuance of official identity cards, which allows them access to critical services and fewer legal obstacles.

Zero Waste Team’s Trip to Thanal

  Team CAG with team Thanal at their office in Trivandrum From 14 to 16, October 2017, CAG’s Zero Waste Team, composed of Ariel, Durga, Kripa, Samantha, Sriram, and Sudipta, went to visit Thanal in Trivandrum. This was for the team to understand how Thanal has been instrumental in helping the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation set up an effective zero waste management system in place...know more

Solid Waste Management Bye-laws for Chennai: A Quick Appraisal

  Image 1: Mound of mixed waste at Kodungaiyur dump yard, Chennai "The Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016, postulate preparation of a State Policy and solid waste management strategy for the State or the Union Territory in consultation with stakeholders. The Solid Waste Management Rules came into force on 8 April 2016. We are two years down the line but we are shocked to know...know more

Single-use Plastics in Chennai Markets: Pre- and Post-ban

On the occasion of World Environment Day, June 5, 2018, the government of Tamil Nadu, led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, announced that a ban on single-use plastic would be implemented in Tamil Nadu from January 1, 2019. Gearing towards a plastic free, new-year, the end of 2018 saw all local bodies release a list of items which would fall under the purview of the ban. To study the...know more

All fun and no waste: planning and executing a zero-waste wedding

Marriages are forever, they said. The waste footprint of these modern weddings is also forever, they never said. Marriages are made in heaven, they said. Wedding wastes never leave the earth, even long after we are gone, they never said. The ‘Big fat Indian wedding’ has come to represent everything that is wrong about the way we celebrate what is essentially a union of two individuals, two...know more

Caught in the crossfire?

  While for some, to act on the issue of waste remains a need, To many others, not so much of a priority to heed. They say, climate change and global warming are merely myths There are other matters at hand, Like economic growth, to deal with?   On the far side, under thatched roofs, many sleep, Preyed on by vectors, as garbage on street corners heap No...know more

Are businesses ready to beat plastic pollution?

Waste and brand audits were conducted in 250 sites across 15 cities in 18 Indian states in 21 days in May 2018 to highlight the pervasiveness of plastics and to ascertain responsibility for the proliferation of problematic plastic packaging in the environment. Participating groups conducted the audits in different sites such as public parks, water bodies, and resource recovery...know more

Waste Audit and Characterisation Study in MSSW

In February 2018, CAG began an engagement with the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW), an autonomous college located in the city, to make their campus zero waste. This report presents the findings and recommendations from the preliminary waste audit undertaken by the CAG team along with the staff and students of MSSW. know more

Solid Waste Management in Chennai A Way Forward

  Solid Waste Management in Chennai - A Way Forward Venue: C.P.R Convention Centre, No. 1 Eldams Road, Alwarpet, Chennai February 24, 2019 | 3:00 pm - 07:00 pm Apart from deaths and taxes, there is a third certainty in life - garbage or solid waste. Yes, the smelly stuff we choose to keep out of sight and out of mind, is a reality that needs urgent attention. When it comes to...know more

Is Chennai ready for a Zero Waste Wedding?

This report presents the experience of Kripa Ramachandran, Researcher, and Sriram Radhakrishnan, Community Organiser, in making a wedding in Chennai zero waste. They found that hotels and caterers would be willing to adopt sustainable waste management practices. What is required for effective waste management in Chennai is the right directive for Bulk Waste Producers and improvements in the...know more

Incentivising zero waste in a low-income community in Chennai

This report presents the experience and lessons of the Zero Waste Cities project in setting up a zero-waste system in Greenways, Chennai. It was led by Gabriel Raj with the support of Kripa Ramachandran, Researcher, and Sriram Radhakrishnan, Community Organiser at CAG, and Pennurimai Iyakkam. know more